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Are You a Connector?

Connecting people is an art. Connecting opens up a world of potential opportunity for yourself and others. All of us are connected in some way, but many of us don’t use our networks.

Are you a connector? I ask this question as there are a few people that I know who are great connectors and I wonder what makes them unique.

According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book Tipping Point there are three types of people, Mavens, Connectors and Salespeople:

Connectors make change happen through people. They galvanize people. They’re natural hubs. That’s just the way they’re oriented to the world. These are people who, every time you ask a question, start flipping a Rolodex in the back of their mind, saying, “Who do I know who knows this? Who do I know who has done this? Who do I know that I need to connect you with?” They love connecting you with people, because they’re all about the people.”

When the topic of networking comes up in conversations a lot of people say, “Oh, I don’t like to network.” But in reality we network each and every day and we don’t realize that we’re doing it.  We are constantly connecting without consciously ‘networking’. Do you use these connections? To take it one step further, do you connect people you meet with other people you know? If you do this, it can be quite powerful.

I have been told through my friends and colleagues that I am a connector. Having never thought of myself this way, I lean in and ask “why”?  They tell me it’s because I always love meeting new people, learning new ideas and that I genuinely want to help others. I’ve always aspired to be like the great connectors that I know and these attributes are something we can all aspire to. We can all learn the art of connecting.

Three tips on being a connector:

1. Be authentic. Approach connecting with sincerity and come from a place in your heart of well-being.

2. Be timely and follow through. Always do what you say you are going to do.

3. Be mindful of your network. Your network is like your reputation, you need to be protective and strategic in who you know and how you tap into their network. It is a two way relationship, so GIVE more than you take.

The Power of Sponsoring

I am often asked what the difference is between mentoring and sponsoring. There seems to be a good deal of confusion between the two since both are centered on asking people to help you advance in your career.  So what is the difference between mentoring and sponsoring?

Mentoring is about advising and sponsoring is about acting.

In a New York Times op-ed article by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, she explains the difference between sponsors and mentors this way:

Mentors act as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on, offering advice as needed and support and guidance as requested; they expect very little in return. Sponsors, in contrast, are much more vested in their protégés, offering guidance and critical feedback because they believe in them.”

Sylvia has also written a book on the topic titled Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor  that I highly recommend for anyone who is looking to get to the next level in their career.

Sponsorship over my career

I have benefited from sponsorship over my career. And I am grateful for all my wonderful sponsors who have believed in me, helped me to make great connections and who provided me with guidance and critical feedback.

My sponsors have been women and men that I had developed relationships with over years throughout my career. I was able to demonstrate my skills and experience to them and gain their trust by working alongside of them while serving on boards, consulting, as a Chief Financial Officer and by getting involved in my community.

When you are looking for a sponsor remember that it is a two way relationship based on mutual respect and trust.  You both need to be invested. Your sponsor is putting their name on the line by championing you, so you need to follow through with their advice and work hard to keep your sponsor’s good reputation intact.

Sponsoring is about giving back by paying it forward for others. Don’t be afraid to ask for a sponsor or take action as a sponsor for someone else.

I am putting “asking for a sponsor” into practice with Women Get On Board. We have formed an Advisory Board with experience and connections in governance, law, investment banking, accounting, financial services, corporate finance, M&A, professional development and media.

I would like to extend a big thank you to our inaugural Advisory Board for helping us shape the strategic direction of Women Get On Board! Your sponsoring will help us advance our mandate to connect and promote women to corporate boards.

The Power of Mentoring

The concept of mentoring is a 20th century term. Thirty years ago mentoring on a business level didn’t even exist. It wasn’t mentioned or promoted as a way to network or learn from people who had the positions that you aspired to.  So what did we did we do before mentoring came in vogue in this highly competitive market place? We chose and emulated people who inspired us to help us reach our goals. My first mentor was father. He inspired my business career and in the last 15 years I’ve had the opportunity to be a mentor and a mentee.

Look for a mentor outside of your organization. Choose someone who inspires you.

I have been fortunate over my professional career to have great mentors. Some I would reach out to on a very informal basis like meeting over a lunch, where I would seek advice and guidance on career choices and specific topics.  On a formal basis, I was sponsored to be a Mentee of the Women On Board, a Catalyst Initiative Mentoring Program. My sponsor was Gigi Dawe, Principal, Research, Guidance & Support at CPA Canada. (I would like to extend a big thanks to her for believing in me!)

When asked what I wanted in my Mentor, I answered that I wanted an experienced woman Corporate Director who had a stellar career as an Executive that I could learn from.  I knew that I could learn the most from another successful business woman who had been there and done that. And so my mentoring program began in May 2012 with Krystyna Hoeg. We would meet over lunch and had a mutual trust, understanding and respect for one another. I am grateful for those wonderful learning lunches that I had with Krys over the next two years. She helped me refine my board matrix skills and my value proposition to a Board and encouraged me to step up in a leadership role as Chair of the Sears Audit Committee. Thanks Krys!

Become a mentor, you will learn a lot from your mentee.

I have been asked over the years to mentor other women.  I am happy to inspire others in achieving their best and find joy in encouraging them to make a difference. I just recently received this email from my mentee that I mentored in the WXNWisdom Top 100 Mentoring Program:

“Also wanted to give you an update that I moved roles within TD about 4 months ago and got a promotion to Associate Vice President Specialized Collections – your guidance and support was a big part of getting me there so wanted to send you a thank you.”

Patricia Trump, AVP Specialized Collection, TD Canada Trust

On Sunday March 1st, I was asked to speak at Brock’s Goodman School of Business’ Brock Badgers A-team Experience as a Distinguished Guest to prospective students and their parents to showcase what Brock’s business graduates have gone on to accomplish. When I’m asked what inspired me to go into business, I always say that I wanted to a businessman just like my father. I can tell that this resonates with the young women business students; they come up to me time and time again and thank me for inspiring them to become a successful woman business leader.

I had Brock Goodman School of Business woman student follow-up with me on LinkedIn after the event:

“It was a pleasure meeting you at the Goodman A-team event today, albeit briefly (over a gift exchange of wine that we hope you enjoy)! I admire your passion for helping women advance their careers and break through the glass ceiling. Hope to keep in touch!”

 Olga Coltova, Marketing Support Specialist at Hitachi Solutions Canada

So as you journey in your professional career, take time to find a mentor and equally give back as a mentor.  The experience is very rewarding.

I would like to thank all my mentors over the years.  You have been instrumental in shaping me into who I am today, especially my father who inspired me at young age to go into business.  I would also like to thank those that believed in me to mentor them. The best is yet come!

Agents of Change

On February 11th, I participated as a panellist for the Strategic Capability Network’s ‘New OSC Board Diversity Policy: A Strategic Opportunity for Board-Building’ event (bit.ly/scnetworkfeb11event). My topic: How can we be agents of change in making diversity a strategic opportunity? With the new OSC rules surrounding board diversity there will be many changes ahead in how corporate boards recruit their new board members. As a corporate director, I believe that this is an opportunity to build stronger boards.

Leadership Development

A crucial step in making board diversity a strategic opportunity is for HR executives to identify leaders and engage in leadership development. This can be done through supporting executives to complete governance educational programs such as the ICD Director’s Education Program or the Directors College. Board development programs help executives learn how to be more effective in working with their boards. The opportunity for executives to serve on a board helps them round out their skills by having a Board frame of reference, which also helps them in their presentations to the Board.

HR executives should take the time to get to know their current Board members —if they serve on other Boards, perhaps there may be potential board opportunities for members of their executive team.

Should HR executives play a role in helping their Governance Committee decide on board composition issues?

HR executives can help the Board develop their Board skills matrix. They can work with the Chair of the Governance Committee or the Corporate Secretary to help recruit potential Board members from inside and outside of the company. They can keep an evergreen list of potential Board members, lead the conversation on age diversity and help put age limit policy in place.

I am an Agent of Change.

As a sitting Corporate Director, I have been approached quite often by other women asking me how I got on Boards. So over time, I would speak about it on panels, or have follow-up telephone calls, coffee, or lunch meetings. Then, last May I engaged a digital branding firm to work with me on my online branding, and I started developing my thought leadership around women on boards and governance. Shortly after that, my call to action came and I joined forces with my co-founder, Susan Varty, to launch Women Get On Board—a member based forum to connect and promote women to corporate boards through roundtable events and promoting on-line their expertise. Last week we had our first roundtable event, Be Visible, speak up and Stand out, with guest speaker Beverly Topping. If you are interested in learning more about Women Get On Board, you can go to, womengetonboard.ca or email us at connect (at) womengetonboard (dot) ca.

So let’s all step up today and collectively be Agents of Change. We can make a difference in making diversity a strategic opportunity for board-building.

My Goal…

When asked why I wanted to go into business, my response was because, “I wanted to be a businessman just like my father.” My father’s successful career was my inspiration and drove me to become the successful businesswoman that I am.

My journey as a professional “in the field” began as a nineteen-year-old co-op accounting student articling with a mid-size accounting firm.  I’ll never forget the one day, as I was working, a senior partner flat out told me that I would never become a Chartered Accountant.  As disappointing as that was to hear, I did not let that stop me in my tracks.  In fact with my own determination and the support of my family to always to your best, I forged ahead! I firmly believed that I could do whatever I put my mind to with hard work.

Hard work,  determination and self promotion has led my career from senior financial management roles, to a venture capital partnership, to my own management consulting firm, and now to corporate director roles. I have been honoured with such awards and distinctions as being nominated a Diversity 50 candidate in 2014, made an Honorary Member of the Beta Gamma Sigma Chapter of Brock University in 2014, received a WXN Top 100 Most Powerful Women award in the Corporate Director category in 2012, and was named a Fellow Chartered Professional Accountant in 2009. I also launched the Deborah E. Rosati Co-op Entrepreneurship Award at Brock University in 2014 to help nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs that will foster innovation and create jobs.

My path to becoming that businessman like my father has taught me that you can achieve your goals. However, my experience as a businesswoman taught me that as women we generally do not take time out to promote ourselves as we should. That’s why my goal is to help and inspire women to get on corporate boards through mentorship and education.

Achieving my goal has led me to co-found Women Get on Board, a member-based forum that connects and promotes women to corporate boards by hosting round-table events and showcasing their expertise online.  Men are also welcome to join as supporting partners because we recognize that we must all work towards diversity and inclusion on corporate boards. If you are interested in Women Get On Board membership, please join our mailing list: www.womengetonboard.ca.